The apparent departure of three top executives running Time Warner's Entertaindom leaves the future of the site in doubt-with the prospect that they may create competition for it.
That's what sources are saying about the sudden absence of the trio: Jim Moloshok, president of Entertaindom.com; Jim Banister, executive vice president; and Jeff Weiner, COO. According to a Warner source, the three executives tendered their resignations in the last two weeks, but the resignations were not accepted. That leaves them more or less in limbo.
Their plans remain uncertain, but they intend to continue working together, according to the source, raising the distinct possibility that they will create a competing entertainment site. That prospect suggests one reason that the resignations remain unacknowledged.
A Warner spokeswoman says there aren't resignations. Instead, she says, the trio is among a group of executives negotiating with the company-to extricate themselves from the site, one presumes. Resolution of that could come soon, but it hadn't as of deadline.
The three executives were unavailable for comment.
When control of the site shifted to Warner Bros., from under the Time Warner Digital Media unit where it had been, the internal perception was that it had gone from being a diamond of the unit to a lower-profile project with lessened expectations.
The main source of discontent: Time Warner's putting the kibosh on a prospective IPO based on Entertaindom in the wake of its merger deal with America Online. That would have given Entertaindom staffers a shot at options bearing a striking price of $7.50 for stock that would have been based on a $200 million valuation of the company.
But the Warner spokeswoman says the IPO was never anything "official," adding, "If there were individuals who someday thought that there could be an IPO, they could be disappointed."
The top Entertaindom execs were also apparently disappointed at a perceived lack of corporate support for Entertaindom and an absence of decisiveness to back content deals that were in negotiation.
Entertaindom had begun to hit its stride with Web surfers, scoring 3.2 million individual visitors in February, according to figures from Media Metrix.
The appointment of Kevin Tsujihara, former Time Warner senior vice president of corporate strategic planning and development, to executive vice president of new media, was a preemptive move, anticipating the departure of Moloshok and company, the insider says.
Warner cast that move as simply part of a larger reorganization, repositioning Entertaindom as it reconsiders the "hub" strategy for its Web sites.
Tsujihara could not be reached for comment.
Entertaindom was launched last December as an entertainment portal, presenting a mix of content from Time Warner's Looney Tunes library and original animations, including the The God and Devil Show, in which PC users get to pick the ultimate fate of celebrities. It also featured interactive animations from Brilliant Entertainment based on such disparate heroes as Xena the Warrior Princess, Popeye and Superman.